I couldn't resist doing a Film Forensics as well...
The Day After Tomorrow
State of body: Perfectly preserved, as though flash frozen in an instant. Stomach contents still intact.
Detail of inspection: I had to drive home so I only had two glasses of wine and examined the body in a state of near-complete sobriety..
Forensic Investigator: Dr. Clam
Comments: This unfortunate corpse provides a wealth of scientific information about its historical epoch.
Although some of the fun has gone out of movies in which New York is reduced to ruins, there was such a lot of fun in those movies to start with that I found this one thoroughly enjoyable. I would love to see one of the classic ‘World Meets Well Deserved Fate’ novels done with the special effects we have today- the ‘Black Cloud’ or ‘Inferno’ by Fred Hoyle, Fritz Leiber’s ‘The Wanderer’, Frank Herbert’s ‘The White Plague’- to list some examples by people whose names begin with ‘F’.
Yes, I enjoyed this film. While the science was pretty silly, the heavily pushed message: ‘Listen to the wise scientists! They know better than the politicians!’ is one I could only applaud. It is good to see a film portraying us scientists as we really are- tough action hero types, stoic and self-sacrificing under pressure, the only ones who keep our heads when the world around us descends into madness, the ones who get the girl and save the world- or at least explain convincingly why it can’t be saved.
I loved the square-jawed, cardboard-cut out, completely ineffectual President. I could vote for somebody like that. Maybe I have, oops. And even Vice President Cheney- or whatever his name was, I forget- came across as clueless and avuncular rather than as some devious right-wing conspirator covered with oil company pocket lint. I don’t remember the last time I saw such a basically nice administration portrayed in fiction or non-fiction, notwithstanding the fact that they were supposed to be the bad guys. If this film was supposed to be satire, it was about as pointed and malicious as a sponge bath.
I also found the heavy-handed preaching completely inoffensive. Because the results of global warming were portrayed in such a ludicrously over-the-top fashion, the preaching came across about as convincing as the preaching of some bucktoothed hillbilly preacher. [very badly done example of bucktoothed hillbilly preaching deleted here]
I loved the way the core of the film was a pastiche of ‘Scott of the Antarctic’ and Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ – a manly journey to somewhere for no particularly good reason; once you get there, you turn around and come back. I would not change that. I would keep that, that is archetypal and timeless.
These are things I would change:
• H.G. Wells said that the key to good science fiction set in the modern world (his modern world, of course, not ours) was to change just one thing and keep the rest as much like it is as possible. Hence, he did the invisible man thing; he did the Martians invade Earth thing; but he points out to us that he didn’t have invisible Martians invade Earth, that would be too much. The core premise of this movie was not as dumb as I was led to believe before I saw it- though it is still pretty dumb- and you could build a pretty decent film around it. The core assumption that is being made for the sake of science fictiony disaster movieness is that the failure of the North Atlantic Current could generate some wacky weather features of a kind never seen before in recorded history, with wacky cores of super-cold. So: cut all the references to weird weather in places like India and Australia. Ditto the tornadoes destroying Los Angeles, hard as I find it to condemn anything that destroys Los Angeles. The giant ice-age causing storms should take the world by surprise.
• A nastier set of bad guys. The administration could be oily and smooth and happy to say the right things and support Hero Scientist’s research, and all the time be taking trailer-loads of cash from the oil companies.
• The debate about what to do could be made much more exciting if it was more accurate. ‘But implementing the Kyoto Protocol will cost the world economy hundreds of trillions of dollars!’ ‘I’m sorry, Mr Vice President, the Kyoto Protocol isn’t enough. You must immediately begin genetically engineering super-soldier penguins to stop the flow of fresh water from the Antarctic ice shelves.’ Okay, so that isn’t more accurate, technically. Feel free to replace everything after ‘You must…’ with your own pipe-dream from your reading of New Scientist or Green Left Weekly.
• The Wolves. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Puke. Only people who have utterly forgotten what drama is could have considered putting them in.
• More panic-stricken nastiness among the citizens of New York. They were all too nice.
• A more convincing reason for Yoda and his friends to be left behind in a small group at the library. Maybe some grim-faced Men in Black types with helicopters could show up and organize things, rather than just one cop having a bright idea. This could reinforce the ‘scientist wise, politician clueless’ core message of the film.
• More sensible survival behaviour for Yoda and his friends- I get the feeling none of the writers grew up playing role playing games, so it is not surprising they didn’t think of these things immediately. For example: (1) Books make good insulation. Line the walls of the room with books. (2) There are lots of other building close by with food and stuff in them. It didn’t look hard at all to make furtive sallies to other buildings.
• If the air is below freezing already, it has hardly any moisture in it. Dropping the temperature suddenly by 10 degrees a second is not going to make frost dramatically grow all over everything. This was just more special-effects madness from people who have forgotten what drama is.
• I kept waiting for the homeless guy’s dog to be flash-frozen. I guess I just have very little self-control, but I would have flash-frozen his dog at some point.
These last two points might imperil the rating the producers were aiming for, but I would do them anyway:
• Fetching antibiotics- even if chased by wolves- does not compare with an emergency amputation under primitive conditions. Bite down on this, Laura.
• Of course, if Laura had gotten properly naked in order to effectively warm the hypothermic Yoda with her body heat, one of them could have noticed how nasty her wound was and they could start worrying about it. This could conveniently make them stop whatever else they were doing, avoiding any danger of the rating getting too out of control. The Laura’s wound subplot could then be milked all the way up to the emergency amputation, like the toe of that guy in ‘Scott of the Antarctic’.
This is one of those films that is dated almost before it appears in the cinemas, providing a flash-frozen picture of the Zeitgeist for future generations. The particular mixture of earnest preachiness about global warming, coy avoidance of its cause and cure, and timid deference to an administration that cries out for spirited mockery, could only have been created at this particular point in history.